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AU Anniversary Summit Should seek to Foster the Relationship Between Civil Society and the AU

HE Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
African Union Commission
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


Dear AUC Chairperson HE Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma:


RE: AU Anniversary Summit Should seek to Foster the Relationship Between Civil Society and the AU


We, the undersigned civil society organisations working throughout Africa, wish to express our disappointment and concern at the reports of the decision of the African Union (AU) Heads of State, and your Office’s endorsement thereof, to limit civil society participation during the May 2013 AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The significance of this Summit in celebrating 50 years of the organisation and in establishing a blueprint for Africa’s future warrants a commitment to even greater collaboration between states and civil society.  This Summit must therefore address the need to foster and encourage a sustainable and constructive partnership between the AU and civil society

The AU should use this Summit as an opportunity to commit itself to creating more space in which civil society and the AU can exchange ideas and interact in a meaningful way. Limiting civil society participation is contrary to the founding principles of the AU which commit it to the principle of public and civil society participation. The Constitutive Act unequivocally recognises that the AU must be guided by a “common vision of a united and strong Africa and by the need to build a partnership between governments and all segments of civil society”. This commitment to partnership between states and civil society has compelled in the past the regular inclusion and participation of civil society in the AU’s processes.

Civil society participation at this Summit should be no different from previous Summits.  To celebrate the AU’s past and look to its future, without meaningful civil society participation seems likely only to project an image of the organisation as defensive and distrustful – a far different projection from what the Heads of State and Commission must intend.

In order to properly address the challenges facing Africa there has to be cooperation between civil society actors at the local, national and regional levels with governments and intergovernmental organisations.

To restrict civil society’s participation at the 50th Anniversary Summit which, according to the AU, seeks to “celebrate African narratives of past, present and future that will enthuse and energize the African population and use their constructive energy to accelerate a forward looking agenda of Pan-Africanism and renaissance in the 21st century” limits the voice of the African people, and ignores the contribution civil society has made to democracy and the realization of human rights in Africa in the last 50 years.

We therefore request clarification as to the extent to which civil society’s participation in this year’s Summit and its role at future Summits will be encouraged and facilitated.  We urge you to address this issue going forward, allowing for full and unimpeded access by civil society organisations so that the AU and its institutions are made fully accessible.

We look forward to a fruitful and collaborative Summit.

  2. Amnesty International
  3. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Egypt
  4. Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL)- Sierra Leone
  5. Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Malawi
  6. Children Education Society(CHESO), Tanzania
  7. Coalition for the ICC, Democratic Republic of Congo & Benin
  8. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  9. Community Empowerment for Progress Organization-CEPO, South Sudan-Juba
  10. Darfur Bar Association
  11. East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project
  12. Human Rights Network- Uganda
  13. Human Rights Watch
  14. International Commission of Jurists – Kenya Section (ICJ-Kenya), Kenya
  15. Kenyans for Peace with truth and Justice Coalition (KPTJ), Kenya
  16. Protection International
  17. South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network (SSHRDN), South Sudan-Juba
  18. Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), South Africa
  19. Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD), Zambia
  20. SPEAK Human Rights & Environmental Initiative,  Mauritius
  21. The Kenya Human Rights Commission, Kenya
  22. Uganda Coalition on the International Criminal Court (UCICC), Uganda